CLEVELAND -- With every pause in the fifth inning, and there were quite a few, the Progressive Field crowd booed Carson Fulmer and the White Sox a little louder.
There was the delay after Fulmer balked the go-ahead run to second base and sought an explanation for the call. A few seconds after that, manager Rick Renteria made a trip to the mound in search of clarification. Beyond that, Fulmer, in an attempt to slow things down, stepped off the rubber several times.
Each time, the sellout crowd got louder.
Yet Fulmer maintained his composure throughout it all. In yet another plus for the team’s future, Fulmer pitched out of a tricky situation to silence the gathering of 33,173. The White Sox rewarded their rookie for the effort with a run in the top of the sixth inning and the bullpen did the rest in a 2-1 victory over the Indians. Fulmer’s third win in four decisions meant the White Sox finished September with a 15-14 record.
“He showed a lot of poise and character throughout that whole situation,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Things like that happen. There’s going to be disagreements. But it’s how you deal with it and I thought he did a nice job continuing to get back out there.”
Everything was in place for Cleveland in the fifth inning. The atmosphere tensed up when Michael Brantley stepped into the on-deck circle as a pinch-hitter after Fulmer hit Yan Gomes with one out and the White Sox ahead by a run. Brantley, who was activated off the disabled list earlier Saturday, followed with a single on the 10th pitch of his at-bat, putting runners on the corners. Francisco Lindor tied it with an RBI fielder’s choice.
With Jason Kipnis at bat, then came a “left knee buckle” from Fulmer, according to plate umpire Pat Hoberg. Instead of picking Lindor off first to end the inning, the runner advanced 90 feet into scoring position. But Fulmer didn’t let the situation get out of control. He stepped off the mound, twice, before Kipnis flew out to center.
“We wanted to make sure I was clear to make the right pitch,” Fulmer said. “There were a couple of things that happened that I just wanted to take a deep breath. With a veteran guy like that, you have to respect his time in the box. But like I said, the game couldn’t go in your favor if you didn’t make the right pitch. I tried to control the situation as much as I could. I was able to get the fastball in after him barreling some balls up foul. I was lucky enough to make the right pitch and get out of the inning.”
Blister issues aside, Fulmer’s had several confidence-building moments in September. He returned to the majors after getting shelled in his Aug. 21 start and pitched well.
Upon returning, Fulmer started in the bullpen and then moved into the rotation. Overall, he posted a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings, allowing four earned runs, 12 hits, 10 walks and struck out 19. Fulmer also went toe-to-toe with Corey Kluber on Saturday, a master of handling the moment. That wasn’t lost on Fulmer, who hopes his fifth-inning escape is something to build off of.
“It's these experiences,” Fulmer said. “If I want to get to where I want to be, and the guys want to get on this team to where they want to be, we have to be put in situations like that.”
“Definitely having success is great but he threw a heck of a game. You've got to give respect to him but take this experience and continue to move forward.”